My Partner Asks if I Can Buy Him a New Belt
At Macy’s I stand in front of the belt rack — all of them hang like tongues.
Their flesh hued from dirt to oak tree to night. I cannot bring myself
to touch them. An employee asks if I need help — but I am already walking
down the hallway to my parents’ bedroom. My hand against the wall
feels every bump until I stand in their closet. My mother waits
as I stare into the eyes of my father’s belts. Four: one braided.
One thick, glossy, the color of coffee. Another thin and the color
of a desk. The other a dull night. I press them between my fingers
to decide which one would hurt the least — but I know they can sing
about pain. They will all count my age — remind me of how old
I have become. Remind me of how I should know better. Remind me
to clean my room, to listen, to do as I’m told, to tell the truth, to come
home on time, to not trust boys, to not talk back. They will remind
me of the strength in my mother’s arm. They will remind her of her own
beltings, that this is the only way — a prayer — to keep me protected.
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